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Auto makers lobby for relaxed rules on self-driving cars

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Like it or not, self-driving cars are likely to become a reality -- and more quickly than most people think. Many auto makers say they will have cars fully capable of driving themselves available to the public in less than five years.

More real-world testing is needed in order to make that happen, however. This week several car companies were on Capitol Hill lobbying for new safety rules that will allow self-driving cars on public roads across the country. Right now, only a handful of states, including California, allow autonomous vehicles on public roads.

"It is important that the federal government begin looking beyond testing to deployment of these systems," Toyota Research Institute chief executive Gill Pratt testified, according to a Reuters report.

General Motors, Volvo and the ride-hailing company Lyft also gave statements to a U.S. House panel Tuesday.

Federal motor vehicle standards currently in place "do not contemplate vehicles without human drivers," according to a prepared statement from General Motors' Vice President for Global Strategy, Michael Abelson.

Under current law, vehicles are required to have steering wheels and brake pedals before they're sold to the public. Last September, the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration issued guidelines about self-driving cars, but they haven't yet taken effect.

“Current automotive safety laws, which were written specifically with human operators in mind, are choking autonomous development," said Michael Harley, executive analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Removing the hindering training wheels, and allowing automakers to comprehensively test, is the next step towards making our roads significantly safer.”